Words by Iain Duff
At a time when tents seem to getting bigger all the time, you could be forgiven for thinking that there’s no longer a place for more compact models. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, with the rise of micro-adventures, the popularity of lightweight and wild camping and the continued need for festival tents, there’s never been more demand for smaller tents.
The good news is that many of the big-name tent manufacturers have developed their ranges to meet this need – none more so than Coleman .
Although the company is well-known for its huge family tents like the Weathermaster, Meadowood and Valdes, it has been quietly working hard to develop its active adventure range, too.
For 2023, Coleman gave its tried and tested range of active tents a full makeover, upgrading them to a monochromatic dark and light grey colour scheme with lime green accents that will ensure that your pitch looks great on the campsite or in the wilderness. The tent models that now feature this fresh, modern look include the Darwin, Cobra and Bedrock models and range from two person to four-person tents.
Here we take a closer look at the Coleman Darwin 4+ and Coleman Cobra 3 tents .
The Darwin 4+ was awarded the winning spot for the Best Festival Tent category in Camping magazine’s 2023 awards, and for good reason.
The number one criteria for a festival tent is that it's easy to pitch and easy to pack away. After that, it needs to be waterproof, offer plenty of storage and be light enough to carry from the car park to the camping field.
Good ventilation is also important for those hot sunny summer mornings after the night before! The new-look Coleman Darwin 4+ ticks all those boxes and more, which makes it perfect for festival camping for couples, as well as weekend breaks and touring.
This four-person dome tent has a spacious peaked-porch for optimum headroom and, plenty of room to store muddy boots and gear, well away from your sleeping bag. The 3,000mm hydrostatic head combined with fully-taped seams and a sewn-in groundsheet mean you should stay dry when it rains and highly flexible, lightweight fibreglass poles assure a good response to windy weather.
Ventilation panels on the side and roof allow cool air to circulate and there are handy mesh storage pockets inside the sleeping area, where you can keep phones, chargers and other small items, close to hand.
The colour-coded poles also make it quick and easy to pitch and it all fits snugly into the carry bag when it comes to home time.
Also, for extra peace of mind – in the unlikely event the flysheet catches fire, it is designed to self-extinguish and not flare dangerously out of control. On top of all that, it's exceptionally good value for money.
If there’s a downside to this tent, it’s that there’s no standing room, so if mobility is an issue, you might find crawling in and out of the tent to be difficult.
Of course, a smaller tent means sacrificing living space but it’s really a trade-off between space and freedom and, for certain types of camping, the benefits of going small far outweigh the negatives.
280 x 330cm
58 x 20 x 19cm
3,000mm hydrostatic head
Outer Polyester Poles Fibreglass
There’s been a lot of talk about elitists in the political arena in the last few years. And, believe it or not, elitism has infiltrated the camping world, too.
Among some outdoor mega-serious enthusiasts – the breed of diehard campers who chop the ends off their toothbrush to save on weight – there is a view that a worthwhile tent has to be made from the kind of lightweight materials that were developed for the space project, is mind-bendingly complicated to pitch and, of course, super-expensive
For some camping über-snobs, Coleman is simply too mainstream to be considered for their expeditions. Well, I’m here to tell you that, frankly, it’s their loss. If they want to spend upwards of £600 for a lightweight tent that packs away into their wallet, then that’s entirely up to them. Personally, I’d prefer to save the extra cash for something else and go for the Cobra 3 instead.
Nothing beats waking up in the morning, opening your tent door and gazing out at a stunning view. And that’s what the Cobra 3 offers. It’s a way to let you enjoy the countryside, whether you’re pitching on a campsite or wild camping on a remote hilltop. It’s lightweight and compact enough to take with you wherever you want to go and weatherproof enough to ensure you stay dry and warm, regardless of the conditions.
This is certainly not the lightest tent on the market, but split the pack between two of you and it’s perfect for overnight hiking trips, and with it being available for under £160, this new-look version is brilliant value for money.
It’s also really easy to pitch. Inside the bag are the pre-shaped poles which slide into the colour-coded, mesh sleeves to form the structure. The lightweight, aluminium pegs supplied by Coleman are surprisingly strong and easily pushed into the ground.
When pitched, it forms a pleasing wedge shape – wider and taller at the head end than at the feet end. Inside there is theoretically enough room for three but, in reality, this is a two-berth tent.
The tent has two decent-sized storage vestibules, one on each side, so if you are sharing then there is plenty of space to store your backpacks and boots. With ventilation panels at both ends of the breathable inner, allowing air to flow through, and zippable mesh on the inner doors, condensation isn’t a major issue. The vents have covers, so can remain open even when it’s raining. The tent is fairly low to the ground, which means less headroom if you’re sitting up, but the low centre of gravity makes it far more capable of coping with strong winds.
Given the price and the overall quality of the build, it’s hard to find fault. It’s not going to be one for the ultra-light brigade, but the truth is, this is a super tent. Forget the elites, this is one for the people.
275 x 310
52cm x 16cm x 16cm
3,000mm hydrostatic head
Outer Polyester Poles Aluminium
Camping magazine has been the voice of campers for over 60 years!
Camping is the UK's only magazine devoted to the wonderful world of life under canvas and the freedom it brings. Every issue is packed with inspirational travel, the top camping sites to stay on, reviews of the latest tents, camping gear reviews, practical help and much more to help you get the most out of your camping adventures.
Want to know more about Camping magazine?About Camping magazine